Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
A group of Bulloch County boys were attached to the 947th Field Artillery Battalion and their 155-millimeter howitzers and sent to San Francisco. Here they headed off to battle America’s World War II foes in the South Pacific.
They boarded the merchant ship/converted troop transport the U.S.S. Sea Flasher. The first week did not go well, as a sailor aboard ship died after running into a hatch-cover during an abandon-ship drill and another man died of acute appendicitis.
Before it reached New Caledonia, the Sea Flasher lost one of its engines, and had to be pulled into harbor for repairs. The “Bulloch Boys” arrived at their destination, Milne, New Guinea, on Feb. 2, 1944.
They wrote home that they were shocked at what they saw: naked women wearing the barest of "G’"strings’ that did nothing to cover their torsos. Even more disturbingly, one soldier wrote, “They actually wear bones through their ears and noses.”
They were moved to a camp on Goodenough Island that lay five miles inland. Here they joined up with elements of the 181st Artillery that had arrived two months earlier. Here, the soldiers feasted on the plentiful bananas and cocoanuts. They noticed the natives seemed to hardly ever eat them, and after several months neither did they. They had adopted the native diet of pig meat, local birds, and even rats. They did not however, copy the native’s habit of dying their hair bright orange.
The unit moved to Finschhafen, New Guinea, some 300 miles away, where the unit suffered its first wartime casualty. When an airplane crashed near their camp, a large rock hurled into the air hit a Bulloch soldier on the head, killing him instantly.
The Allied forces (Hurricane Task Force) were preparing for an invasion of the Japanese held areas when Japanese planes attacked and set 11 Landing Ship Transports (LST’s) and their supplies ablaze.
Once the Allied forces (including the 41st Division and the Bulloch Boys) had landed, they set about freeing the Dutch missionaries and Javanese and Malay prisoners. From here they went first to Biak and then Schoten Islands.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.